Robert De Niro : Quotes

The talent is in the choices.

It's important not to indicate. People don't try to show their feelings, they try to hide them.

I don't like to watch my own movies - I fall asleep in my own movies.

Don't talk it [shooting a scene] away, do it!

Some people say that drama is easy, and comedy is hard. Not true. I've been making comedies the last couple of years, and it's nice. When you make a drama, you spend all day beating a guy to death with a hammer, or what have you. Or you have to take a bite out of somebody's face. On the other hand, with a comedy, you yell at Billy Crystal for an hour, and you go home.

[interview in Chicago Sun Times, 1/8/98] I think Hollywood has a class system. The actors are like the inmates, but the truth is they're running the asylum. You've got to look at the whole studio structure. There's these guys. We call them suits. They have the power to okay a film. They're like your parents, going, "We have the money". But at the same time they say to us actors, "We love you. We can't do without you". You know, I've been around a long time. I've seen the suits run the asylum. I think I can do it as good or even better. Let me try it. That's why I have TriBeCa.

I go to Paris, I go to London, I go to Rome, and I always say, "There's no place like New York. It's the most exciting city in the world now. That's the way it is. That's it."

I've never been one of those actors who has touted myself as a fascinating human being. I had to decide early on wether I was to be an actor or a personality.

[on acting] The whole thing is for younger people who are sexy and youthful.

[on the mobster characters he often plays] The characters that I play are real. They are real so they have as much right to be portrayed as any other characters. There are other characters I have played, other than those ones that have been called stereotypes or whatever. So.

People treat me with a bit too much reverence. Look at Dustin Hoffman. I always envy the way he can speak and be smart and funny and so on. I just can't do that.

[about Al Pacino] Al, over the years we've taken roles from one another. People have tried to compare us to one another, to pit us against one another and to tear us apart personally. I've never seen the comparison frankly. I'm clearly much taller, more the leading-man type. Honestly, you just may be the finest actor of our generation - with the possible exception of me.

One of the things about acting is it allows you to live other people's lives without having to pay the price.

I am part Italian, I'm not all Italian. I'm part Dutch, I'm part French, I'm part German, I'm part Irish. But my name is Italian and I probably identify more with my Italian side than with my other parts.

If there is a God he has a lot to answer for.

You'll have time to rest when you're dead.

After my first movies, I gave interviews. Then I thought, "What's so important about where I went to school, and hobbies? . . . what does any of that have to do with acting, with my own head?"

There is a mixture of anarchy and discipline in the way I work.

[in 2004] I love Italy and I have a deep tie with my Italian roots. I stand for [John Kerry]. I hope he will arrive at the White House. We need a different government to represent America. The change of presidency would be a clear and international sign to say that we are approaching again to the rest of the world. I don't want any prize that can influence this election. I stand for Kerry.

(on "Taxi Driver"'s infamous line) You have no idea that, years later, people in cars will recognize you on the street and shout, "You talkin' to me?" I don't remember the original script, but I don't think the line was in it. We improvised. For some reason it touched a nerve. That happens.

Some people say, "New York's a great place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there". I say that about other places.

It's true: I spent lunchtime in a grave during the filming of "Bloody Mama". When you're younger, you feel that's what you need to do to help you stay in character. When you get older, you become more confident and less intense about it -- and you can achieve the same effect. You might even be able to achieve more if you take your mind off it, because you're relaxed. That's the key to it all. When you're relaxed and confident, you get good stuff.

Movies are hard work. The public doesn't see that. The critics don't see it. But they're a lot of work. A lot of work. When I'm directing a great dramatic scene, part of me is saying, "Thank God I don't have to do that". Because I know how fucking hard it is to act. It's the middle of the night. It's freezing. You gotta do this scene. You gotta get it up to get to that point. And yet, as a director, you've got to get the actors to that point. It's hard either way.

When I was a teenager, I went to the Dramatic Workshop at the New School. The school had a lot of actors under the GI Bill -- 'Rod Steiger', Harry Belafonte, the generation ahead of me. I went in there and the director said to me, "Vy do you vant to be an acteh?" I didn't know how to answer, so I didn't say anything. And he said, "To express yourself!" And I said, "Yeah, yeah, that's it. That's right."

[on witnessing the terrorist attack on New York on 9/11/2001] I left a meeting right after they hit the World Trade Center. I went to my apartment, which looks south, and I watched it out my window. I could see the line of fire across the North Tower. I had my binoculars and a video camera--though I didn't want to video it. I saw a few people jump. Then I saw the South Tower go. It was so unreal, I had to confirm it by immediately looking at the television screen. CNN was on. That was the only way to make it real. Like my son said: "It was like watching the moon fall".

The hardest thing about being famous is that people are always nice to you. You're in a conversation and everybody's agreeing with what you're saying -- even if you say something totally crazy. You need people who can tell you what you don't want to hear.

I didn't have a problem with rejection, because when you go into an audition, you're rejected already. There are hundreds of other actors. You're behind the eight ball when you go in there. At this point in my career, I don't have to deal with audition rejections. So I get my rejection from other things. My children can make me feel rejected. They can humble you pretty quick.

Money makes your life easier. If you're lucky to have it, you're lucky.

I only go to Los Angeles when I am paid for it.

Nobody has moved me from my seat yet. But, just in case, I've bought my own restaurants.

[on "What Just Happened"] This is as close as it gets to what it can be like to be in the middle of this stuff. The fear factor is always there--everything from losing tens of millions of dollars on a film that doesn't work to not being able to get a good table in a top restaurant because your last movie flopped.

It is good to have a few other interests [restaurants, hotels, the TriBeca Film Festival]. But my main interest has always been movies - making them, directing them, being involved. I have never lost the passion for that.

I like New York because I can still walk the streets and sit down in a bar or restaurant and observe people. If you can't properly observe, as an actor, you're finished. The impression sometimes given is that I can't leave my own home without being recognised or bothered in the street. That's just not true. I can go out, at leisure, meet people for lunch or take my kids to the park. I don't think I am glamorous enough for Hollywood.

I have lived in Los Angeles, working in Hollywood, countless times, doing movies. I am not against the place. I was not a young actor kicking around, living by the seat of my pants, desperate for work. I went by invitation, and my experiences have been good ones. But I have never chosen to live there full-time.

I've always done comedies. There were comic elements in "Mean Streets" and even "Taxi Driver". And I did "The King of Comedy". I've always had what I consider to be a good sense of humour. There is this image that has been built up - invented, more like - and there's me, living the life. I do not consider myself some sort of acting legend, just an actor doing his best with the material that is there at the time.

You can look into my background all you like, but I have never had problems with authority on film sets. Even if I disagree with a director, I work through it. I am also not one for regrets. I don't regret any film I've made, because there was a reason for making it at the time. If it hasn't worked out, then don't spend time worrying about why and how. Just move on to the next project.

Difficult? Me? I don't think I am difficult compared to other people. It is hard to make a movie at the best of times, so you don't want to give people a hard time. People all have their own agendas. But it is not worth acting out something from your own history to make a point on a film set. If you have a problem with, say, your father or some other father figure, why give the director a tough time?

[on Martin Scorsese] I wish I had that knowledge of movies that he has. He's like an encyclopedia. I could call him up and ask him about a certain movie, and he would know about it. He's seen everything, it's great.

(on the lengths he will go to disappear into a part) You don't just play a part. You've got to earn the right to play them.

[on Martin Scorsese] I really hope I get to do another movie with him again.

[re Angelina Jolie and Helen Mirren] She [Jolie] is my dream co-star and I love to work with her. It depends on the project [as to who would be] at the top of my list... wonderful actresses.

I always wanted to direct. Directing is a lot more of a commitment though, a lot more time. I like directors who do very few takes, they know what they want. As for me, I know when I have a shot, but I might want back up, and one other take. You never know. If it's about capturing a moment, you're never going to be able to go back and repeat it, you go with it. It's a tricky thing. I go through all the footage, and look at everything.

Some things you learn from just being in movies, so I see what's getting done, how it's getting done. I know what making a film is going to take, how much time. I almost don't even think about it. If I'm in a movie, I can sense if something is not quite right, if the rhythm is off.

I know it's important to give everybody as much freedom as you can so that they don't feel there are any limitations. With any mistake they could make, everything is fine. And then they're not afraid to try things or trust you when you say, "Look, let's try and go in this direction." That's very important with actors - and all other creative elements.

[on being cast in "The Deer Hunter"] I talked with the millworkers, drank and ate with them, played pool. I tried to become as close to being a steelworker as possible, and I would have worked a shift at the mill but they wouldn't let me.

I just can't fake acting. I know movies are an illusion, and maybe the first rule is to fake it, but not for me. I'm too curious. I want to deal with all the facts of the character, thin or fat.

I only go to Los Angles when I'm paid for it.

[on release of restored version of "The King of Comedy" in 2013] I was a big fan of the script and was very excited to do it with Marty [Scorsese] and happy that we finally made it. The fact that it's been restored (hard to believe that so many years have passed) is even all the better, and I can't wait to see it on our closing night.

The first time I went to Vegas, I was 17. I had a friend who was a dealer in a casino. It was real desert, still like the Wild West. Apparently, there's a nightclub scene now. Back then, you gambled and then, at 4am, you went to the lounges to see Sinatra sing.

When you're directing, you think of everything ... The few times I've directed, if someone comes up with something you missed, you're glad to hear that.

I'm hoping that if things work out with digital technology, they can finally make us look younger and I can go on for another 40 years.

[on the death of his "Flawless" co-star Philip Seymour Hoffman] I'm very, very saddened by the passing of Phil. He was a wonderful actor. This is one of those times where you say, 'This just shouldn't be. He was so young and gifted and had so much going, so much to live for.' My family and I send our deepest condolences to his family.

[on theatre] I like movies. I mean, I'd do a play if I could find a great play, a modern play, a new play. But you can do more with film. I like the illusion. In like that you can create something and do it over and then put it together like a big puzzle. With a play, the most you can do is videotape it once and then put it in the archive at the Lincoln Center. Films last. You put it on the screen and it's there forever, a little piece of history.

[on the cast reunion for the 25th anniversary of "Goodfellas"] We sometimes run into each other. What happens is, you see each other 10 or 15 years later, and it is as if the time has not passed. Because we got to know each other so well at an emotional or spiritual level; and it never goes away.

[referring to Donald Trump] I mean his so blatantly stupid. He's a punk, he's a dog, he's a pig, he's a con, he's a mutt who doesn't know what his talking about, he doesn't do his homework doesn't care, think his thinks he's gaming his society, doesn't pay his taxes, he's an idiot. Colin Powell said it best, he's a national disaster. His an embarrassment to this country. It makes me so angry that this country has gotten to this point that this fool, this bozo has wound up where he has. He talks how he wants to punch people in his face, well I'd like to punch him in the face. This is somebody we want for president? I don't think so. What I care about is the direction of this country, and what I'm very, very worried about is that it might go in the wrong direction with someone like Donald Trump.